Understanding the Importance of ‘Kerygma’ in catechesis and our call towards life-long discipleship, communion and mission.
Five years ago the Office for Catechesis launched the first-ever Catechetical Awareness Weekend in Singapore, seeking simply to update parents and other parishioners of the changes in catechesis as well as to recruit potential catechists. This year, the same call still rings true.
Catechesis has undergone much renewal in many parishes, and for many parishes who are using the new curriculum from the Office for Catechesis, catechetical sessions are starting to look different.
The curriculum for catechesis today has expanded widely to include newer and pressing topics that our world today faces, such as Catholic Social Teaching, Human Sexuality, Evangelisation and Mission, as well as new light on the practice of our Christian Virtues, as well as a deeper understanding of Scripture, Liturgy and Salvation History.
More than that, catechists are now provided with training on how to listen actively and facilitate discussion, rather than just teach content. Courses on catechetical pedagogy also help catechists learn how to impart difficult concepts. A greater emphasis is now placed on sharing the Kerygma, which enables a personal encounter with Jesus. Hence catechists are not just formators, they are also witnesses of Christ.
Yet the journey seems to have only just begun. In an address to all catechists during the Office for Catechesis’ Launch of the Catechetical Year event held in January this year, Archbishop William Goh shared his thoughts about catechesis in Singapore today, bringing up many important needs and challenges still needing to be fulfilled.
Archbishop Goh pointed out that sustaining our young people’s faith after Confirmation is still a challenge, noting that many are still leaving the Church. “What is lacking in this journey?” Archbishop posed this question to all.
He said, "There is a need to witness for Jesus. When it comes to witnessing, it is important to realise this - that the whole purpose of Catechesis is to make them a mature witness for Christ.”
He explained that the four stages: Kerygma, Didache, Communion, and Missio are necessary for a person to be a witness, whether it is a young person or an adult catechumenate.
“These four steps must be followed and they are essential.” He said.
The Kerygma is the initial proclamation of Jesus Christ that leads to an encounter with the Lord. Archbishop said, “You need to have personal encounters with Christ. If there is no personal encounter with Christ, a person cannot move on to the stage of 'Didache', which is Discipleship. If you are trying to teach a bunch of students who have no encounter with Jesus, then you are just giving them information or knowledge. Without falling in love with Jesus, all that has been said or taught means nothing to them, because they cannot sync, they cannot connect.”
“In encountering Jesus, the person begins to realise and discover for himself, that God is love. Without this encounter, no catechesis will work.”
Archbishop then explained that Didache, or discipleship, is an ongoing process. There is no question of stopping formation. He lamented the reality that many stop their faith formation after the Sacrament of Confirmation. He said, “Let us not hide. Challenge ourselves. Look at the reality - it is not ok.”
“Have you asked your child - is your spiritual life growing? Not just knowledge of your faith - that is only part of it. But is he becoming more fervent in his prayer life?”
“By the time [young people] come to Sec 1 or 2, they are skeptical. We need to be witnesses at Church, and also witnesses at home. Sometimes parents are counter-witnesses, and that is why Discipleship is not taken seriously.”
To catechists he said, “let me challenge you - can you be interactive in your teaching, that you raise issues that are pertinent to the lives of these people - e.g. how to be a happier person, how to deal with their peers, insecurity, low-self esteem, frustration and so on? Do you deal with life issues?”
In Communion, Archbishop emphasised that, “Catechesis is not just the work of OFC. It is the work of the whole Church.” We need to integrate our young people into the Church even more.
And finally, in Missio, Archbishop advocated that we challenge our young people right from the start to share about Jesus as this creates accountability. “If our young people are challenged, there is accountability - they have something to do. Now they are passive - they come to listen and then go back. There is no action.”
He concluded, “I think if these four principles are followed, then they can be real witnesses: Kerygma, Didache, Communion, Missio. We need to think of how to make these four principles work more effectively.” Archbishop Goh concluded.
Catechists at the Launch of the Catechetical Year 2019
About Catechetical Awareness Weekend 2019
During this year’s Catechetical Awareness Weekend (24 - 25 August) 2019, the invitation is open to all parishioners to be open and discover the importance and necessity of catechesis, for themselves as individuals, which then extends to the family unit, and into the larger church community.
In becoming more aware of the need for the ‘Kerygma’, parents too can play their part to support the work of catechists. Parents can be more active, seeking out more faith formation if needed, or simply to pray as a family, so as to be witnesses of Christ starting from the home.
Faith formation is for life, and can become a way of living. If we can work towards this with our children, then perhaps they will take their faith more seriously.
The parish too can play a part by welcoming young people and the newly-baptised into the community, so as to give them a sense of belonging and identity in the Church.
As for those deciding to join the catechetical ministry to become catechists, one should discern and review if you have the desire to share and be a witness of the faith, in order to help our young people have a true encounter with the Lord, which is more lasting than simply imparting theological knowledge.
With so many distractions and conflicting values in our world today, young people, adults, parents and families all need to encounter Jesus more than ever, to be inspired with real examples of love and faith. This is brought about through the mission of the catechist.
Catechists can make a far-reaching impact on the next generation, who face rising secularism and materialism in society.
If you have the desire for our young people to truly encounter Jesus and receive a solid foundation and teaching in the faith, perhaps you may have a calling towards the catechetical ministry.
By attending the courses and workshops by the Office for Catechesis, you will be able to discern and be equipped and updated on the latest curriculum and pedagogy today.
So you are invited to find out more. Contact your parish’s catechetical coordinator to learn about the ministry of catechesis.
If you are interested in being a catechist, read more here.
The Office for Catechesis was previously known as the Catechetical Office (CO), and was originally part of the Singapore Pastoral Institute. Under Archbishop Nicholas Chia, the CO was tasked in 2009 with developing a catechetical curriculum suitable for Singapore.
In 2009, then Catechetical Director Fr Erbin Fernandez focused first on the training and formation of catechists, then developing a curriculum. In 2015 the office became a separate office from the Office for the New Evangelisation, and it is now known as the Office For Catechesis.
Last year in 2018, Fr Terence Kesavan was appointed as Catechetical Director for the Office, succeeding Fr Erbin Fernandez.
The Office for Catechesis has been covering much work in the archdiocese on catechetical formation over the past decade, such as:
Developing a Catechetical Curriculum for children and youth in parishes: This also includes developing policy guidelines for those involved in catechesis and providing training, spiritual formation and support to all involved in catechesis through forming a network of catechists in Singapore.
Running the Archdiocesan Catechetical Trainer’s Programme, now in its 2nd season. Each batch will undergo formation for 3 years before being fully equipped to train new catechists. There are currently 28 trainees undergoing this formation.
Foundational Courses, Basic Catechesis Courses, Workshops and Electives:
These courses cover topics such as Scripture, Liturgy, Catechetical pedagogy, Evangelisation and Mission, Virtues, Human Sexuality, Catholic Social Teaching, Church History and more.
RCIA Courses: These workshops equip RCIA coordinators and sponsors with the necessary knowledge of the RCIA process as well as how to journey with their catechumens.
Organising Events and Retreats for Catechetical Teams
Ongoing research on catechetical theory and methodology and developing new training programmes
In addition to these, the Office for Catechesis also aims to provide support and catechesis to ‘gap’ groups e.g. Elderly and homebound, special needs children, as well as running the Bridging Programme which is currently operating in four districts in Singapore, to assist children/youth, who missed catechesis, to catch up with their peers.
At the First Holy Communion Retreat under OFC's Bridging Programme
The Catechetical Awareness Weekend is not only for recruitment of new catechists, it is for ALL of us to be aware of this beautiful ministry and vocation in the Church and to embrace it as our own.
1️⃣ In every Family, our parents are our first catechists. Therefore this weekend we celebrate your vocation as well - as examples of faith and prayer to your children - Don't leave this important role to others. If you need learn more yourselves, do it! If we go to great lengths to help our children through their school exams, why not the same for faith formation?
2️⃣ To ALL parishioners - we would need your support in all ways even if you aren't a catechist yourself - you can PRAY FOR US! It is actually every Catholic's basic call and mission to evangelise, so support the ministry of catechesis in all ways, as it is this ministry which brings the Good News to our children and next generation!
3️⃣ In the Church, catechists guide and bring Christ to our children and teens. It is a role that is not very visible and usually work is behind-the-scenes. Catechists are often taken for-granted. This weekend, let us seek to recognise their efforts with a word of thanks, recognition, appreciation.
4️⃣ In the Archdiocese, the Office for Catechesis is working to train and develop new catechists. Without these courses and workshops, our Catechists would be less empowered to serve. So if you are available, volunteer! You could even attend these courses yourself and discover a newfound hunger for faith formation.
May we all work together in unity to bring Catechesis to the next level - and we can only do so, with everyone's support.